Body Positivity: It Starts with You
It's not about loving yourself 24/7. But it is about treating yourself with respect.
Deep breath in. Hold. Hold it in. Suck more air until you feel light-headed. Keep your eyes focused on your stomach in the mirror, getting smoother and more toned with each inhale. Keep holding, don’t let go. You want that flat tummy, those wide-but-not-too-wide hips, that hourglass silhouette. But eventually you have to exhale. You have to let go.
In this age of body positivity, it feels shameful and outdated to admit we still look in the mirror and see everything we don’t like. It’s the age of “thicc” thighs and “boss bitches.” As modern women, we’re supposed to be “woke” enough to celebrate the curves, the rolls, the wobble. But how realistic is it to look at yourself in the mirror every single day and believe that your body is beautiful?
I was eleven years old and hiding Cosmo magazines under my bed. They started appearing on our kitchen table out of nowhere, my mother angry because she didn’t recall subscribing. I would sneak them away to my room and pore over the diet and exercise sections, reading all I could about the dangers of carbs and fat. It was a dizzying array of information, pitting one food group against another, until eating seemed a dangerous undertaking, something that required too much thought and prior planning.
Hours were spent looking at myself in bathroom mirrors. As early as elementary school, I remember taking a hard look at my face, staring until my vision was blurry, trying so hard to figure out what was wrong with it, why I wasn’t pretty. Standing in the hallway outside of my third-grade class, my classmate, completely unprompted, told me he had almost gotten me confused for a boy but that my long curly hair saved me. I had never talked to him before this encounter and I’m still not sure why he thought the information so pertinent to relay, but from then on, I had an irrational fear of looking “boyish.” I avoided short hair and preferred reds and pinks to blues and greens.
Growing up, my body felt foreign somehow, something separate from my “true” self. It was constantly falling short of my expectations, never quite what I wanted it to be. I wanted the flat tummy, the pale hairless underarms, the straight nose. I got no pleasure from seeing my naked body and couldn’t even imagine showing it to someone else. It was something to be ashamed of, something that had no relation to who I really wanted to be.
But the irony is, no one else will probably ever see all that I do of my own body. I see purple stretchmarks, a crooked nose, a hairy, pudgy stomach. But when I finally undressed myself in front of my first boyfriend, all he saw was the grace in my hands, the bounty of my breasts, the smooth creamy skin. The more vulnerable I was with my body, the more I realized that what worried me were of no notice to others. For the first time, I felt grounded in my body, pride in it. I felt sexy. I felt beautiful.
You don’t have to sleep with someone to feel good about yourself. But breaking those long-held negative notions of yourself is the key to unlocking your confidence. I thought I wasn’t sexy. I thought I wasn’t attractive. And having someone else show me that I could be was revolutionary. You have to challenge the negative thoughts you’re constantly telling yourself. And find ways to show and affirm to yourself that you are beautiful, in whatever body you have.
I’m single right now and my main focus has been caring for myself. I practice yoga, try to drink a lot of water, and indulge myself in my hobbies that make me feel good like writing. But my new favorite thing? Taking photos of myself in my underwear. It sounds a bit egotistical and superficial, but for someone who suffered from low self-esteem for such a long time, it’s been surprisingly liberating. I don’t take them for anyone else, they’re purely for my own pleasure. Spending the time to observe and capture my own beauty has been such a healing practice. Undoing all of those childhood traumas requires some creativity, and, honestly, I never would have guessed that nudes would be the answer.
If you’re struggling with your confidence, definitely give it a try. Light some candles, put on your cutest pair of panties, and snap away. You’ll be surprised by what you see. Trust me. And if that seems like too daring a risk, just start by a saying a couple of daily affirmations to yourself: “I'm beautiful. I’m unique. My body is worthy of love. And I am willing to love it and accept it for what it is.”
At the end of the day, what it really boils down to is the way you think about yourself. No one is happy with themselves 24/7. Everyone gets frustrated and discouraged. But it’s about treating yourself with respect, as you would with anyone else. This is the body that you have. And you can do to it and think of it what you want. You can choose to disdain it, to be ashamed, or you can accept it for what it is and celebrate its own unique beauty. It’s all within your power.